William Thomas Butts – Sergeant, United States Army

From a contemporary press report

Lisa J. Butts' final goodbye to her husband was a single red rose placed on his coffin. She buried Staff Sergeant William Thomas Butts – her sweetheart since high school – at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday. Butts, 30, the son of Luella and Roy Hutchinson of Pendleton County, was killed February 27, 1991 the day President Bush announced a cease-fire in the Persian Gulf War.

Butts' Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was shot down over Iraq. The eight-member crew was trying to rescue the pilot of a downed F-16 fighter. Four other crew members died with Butts and three were taken prisoner, including Major Rhonda Cornum, of Freeville, New York, a surgeon and one of two women POWs.

Butts, the father of 7-year-old Shannon and 23-month-old Lindsey, was an aviation mechanic with the 2nd Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Rucker, Alabama. The unit was deployed to the Persian Gulf August 22 as part of the 101st Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell.

During the war the 2nd Battalion captured hundreds of Iraqi prisoners in raids on targets behind enemy lines. Officials in Washington, DC confirmed that was the first known case of POWs taken by helicopters alone.

A soldier since 1979, Butts also took part in the US invasion of Grenada. About 100 family members and friends gathered to mourn his death, including a group of Butts' fellow soldiers from the 101st Aviation Brigade.

Senator Richard C. Shelby, D-Alabama, also attended the funeral. Major Cornum and another POW captured after Butts' helicopter went down, Sergeant Troy A. Dunlap, of Massac, Illinois, also attended. Both were stationed at Fort Rucker. Eight pallbearers, part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry and known as the “Old Guard,” carried Butts' flag-draped casket from the hearse to the grave. Two members of the Old Guard marched behind the body bearers, carrying US flags folded into triangles. Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division marched behind the Old Guard, followed by family members. After placing the casket above the grave, the pallbearers lifted the flag, and the two folded flags were placed on top of the casket as the family members took their seats.

Senator Shelby spoke first. “We are here to honor the memory of Sergeant Butts,” Shelby said. “He paid, as everybody here knows, the supreme sacrifice. We have just won a big military victory, but we should never forget the people who paid the ultimate, and the sergeant is one of them.” The senator, quoting a Latin phrase, said, ” . . . he died far away, before his time, but as a soldier and for his country .. We all honor him here today. We salute his family for his life,” he said.

Army Captain Earl Payton, the officiating chaplain, read a poem selected by the family and led mourners in prayer. “We thank you for Sergeant Butts' life, for the people that he has touched,” he said. The family stood as a sergeant of the Old Guard commanded the seven-member firing team to fire three volleys – a 21-gun salute – and Sergeant First Class Bram Smith played “Taps” on a bugle. An American flag was presented to Mrs. Butts. Members of the Old Guard gave the other two flags to Butts' mother, Mrs Hutchinson, and his father-in-law, Charles Winkler, both sitting in the front row with Mrs Butts.

Roy Hutchinson, a career Navy man, sat next to his wife in full Navy uniform. The couple has been married for 16 years. Butts' natural father died 19 years ago. Several of Butts' eight siblings live in Northern Kentucky. Finally, after a line of mourners filed past the family, Mrs Butts stood up, walked over to the casket, touched it and laid the flower on it. The family was escorted back to waiting limousines and was driven away. As the grave site emptied, all that was left was a member of the casket team, guarding the site until Sergeant Butts' casket was lowered into its grave.

Section 60, Grave 7721

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